The Right Honourable 2019
Burning with desire a quarter of a century down the line, opening trilogy of ambitious sci-fi tale is distilled and fleshed out.
Concept albums were thin on the ground and quite unpopular in the ’80s, yet Tom Galley didn’t care: ready to scorch the terrain with a fantastic story and a posse of prime players, he prepared a fine cache of songs which, despite diminishing returns, still stand tall. Spanning a hat-trick of album, the original “Phenomena” was a defiant attempt to bring out a studio-based cleverness in the period’s stylistic morass, and pour righteous gloom into its era’s arena rock; the successful feat that the tracks collected here illustrate with panache. Culled from each of those records, the devil’s dozen pieces on display, plus a couple of 12″ remixes, seem to create a concise, digest-like narrative, to highlight the most brilliant bits of such a dark endeavor, so while the absence of “Kiss Of Fire” off 1985’s eponymous start is glaring, three numbers bridging gaps between the three chapters make “Anthology” loom large even now.
“Together we stand, together we fall”: turning a famous phrase on its head by unifying their front, the stellar ensemble’s performances can feel too exuberant on the AOR-stamped “Still The Night” or riff-laden “If You Want To Rock” which would dampen the punch of 1992’s "Innervision" where Brian May cameoed, but Glenn Hughes‘ divine harmonies and John Wetton‘s velvet attack render, respectively, the nocturnal “Phoenix Rising” and the heroic “Did It All For Love” – a hit single from 1987’s "Dream Runner" – simply irresistible. Factor in the imperative “Stop!” and folk-infused “Dance With The Devil” that reveals the multi-dimensional scope of the “Phenomena” universe, and the mystery of why the saga – and, in particular, power ballad “What About Love” – remained in penumbra, when the project’s relatives WHITESNAKE were riding the charts, becomes obvious.
What’s clear, though, is why the rough, if groovy – thanks to Neil Murray and Cozy Powell’s telepathy – “Assassins Of The Night” and “Running With The Pack” didn’t make the cut back in the day. There’s enough momentum in them to delight an aficionado and uninitiated alike, still, whereas “Stealing Heaven” that Keith Murrell voiced for the fourth installment of the franchise careened to pure pop, and this follow-up to the trilogy just couldn’t happen. “Phenomena” got rebooted in 2006 in a much heavier vein, but it failed to capture former glory anew: here, the erstwhile fire burns ever bright.